The Pantry Kitchen’s ‘Weeknight Challenge’ yields stuffed squash recipes and many unexpected gems

The goal with the first challenge of Season 2 of the Pantry Kitchen Challenge was to get everyone in an autumnal mood, and to introduce the new “wild card” rule designed to throw a different wrinkle into each round. Wellll …. perhaps we should have been more specific?

Round 1 was “The Weeknight Challenge” with a 30-minute prep time limit, and squash, apples, nutmeg and soda as the ingredients. We didn’t foresee that folks would interpret the 30-minute limit in two different ways: 30 minutes to prep the dish and get it ready for cooking or 30 minutes from prep to plating.


So to be fair, we selected the top three finishers in both categories. (And props to those of you who saw “30-minute prep” and decided this meant 30 minutes total!) You hustled and came up with some pretty impressive stuff. This challenge garnered 45 entries! Many of you saw the ingredients list and thought stuffed squash or butternut squash soup. So bonus points for those who went above and beyond those two staples.

In the “30-minutes from prep to plating” category, Paul Shapiro wins for butternutchos, turning butternut squash into tortilla chips for a unique plate of nachos. Runners-up: Darci Rogojin, whose autumn doughnut holes with nutmeg cream soda icing looked delectable, and Beth Cavalli, who combined Western ingredients with Mexican and Asian flavors — tamarind soda! — to create a tamarind stir-fry!

In the “30-minutes prep, then cook to your heart’s content” category, the mother-daughter tandem of Joan and Keri Segna wowed us with this gorgeous stuffed pumpkin dinner called Filled with Goodness. Runners-up: Thomas Finnegan transformed the ingredients into an interesting chicken curry with squash and apples, while Jeff Abrams also stuffed a pumpkin in spectacular fashion to produce pumpkin and apple English pudding with root beer glaze.

Here are the top 12 submissions! Thanks for playing. See below for details on Round 2.

Season 2 Round 2 “The Entreé Challenge”



  • You have to use all four ingredients, but you can use as many additional ingredients as you desire. 
  • Wild card rule for Round 2: You have to make an entrée. Defined as: more substantial than appetizers. You cannot make dessert for this round. Sorry dessert lovers!
  • Deadline: Create a dish, tell us how successful you were and email photos (JPG files!), your recipe and a description of your dish to food editor Stefanie Loh ([email protected]) by Friday, Oct. 16. 
  • Judging will be based on creativity, how well you incorporated the four ingredients, presentation and adherence to the wild card rule. We’ll name the top three entries and select several of the most interesting submissions to be published in a future edition of The Mix.

Pantry Kitchen Challenge Season 2 Round 1 Best Reader Submissions

*To download a PDF of recipes from this round, click here.

Butternuchos (30 minutes flat)

Paul Shapiro turned slices of butternut squash into tortilla chips for this plate of “butternuchos.”  (Courtesy of Paul Shapiro)
Paul Shapiro turned slices of butternut squash into tortilla chips for this plate of “butternuchos.” (Courtesy of Paul Shapiro)


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My month in the garden: what to do with autumn squash, setting up a garden party and autumn tips

This keeps the flames active and the flames showing and burning well without smothering the fire with fresh wood. Always light it around half an hour before your first arrivals. Kadai does a blow poker, which helps fan the flames and stop the smoke. If you have an exposed garden, maybe opt for a chiminea instead. I got Philip, a local metal worker who runs Manor Welding to make me one, as good-looking examples are in short supply.

For cover, a simple shelter can be made using posts on the corners, which could be stone, metal or timber with basic timer/ metal beams for the frame for the roof. We then sometimes put a sandwich of heather panels top and bottom with corrugated plastic in the middle, all laid to a slight fall.

This rather “Heath Robinson” approach looks quite acceptable and is not expensive. One such structure has survived well for more than 20 years with only the top heather layer being replaced. At home, we have a white waterproof fabric awning (by TedGem), but when the wind gets going it can generate quite a force, so the structure needs to be able to withstand this.

There is tremendous scope for decorating your garden. For this time of year, we often use chili plants hung with fruit, and big vases of brash magenta dahlias, scarlet amaranthus and lime gladioli. I wrap the plastic plant pots with hessian, or go to the other extreme and apply transfer gold leaf to form some amazing centrepieces.

This is pretty simple to use and, as gold leaf is real gold, it stays stunningly shiny forever. Available from Cornelissen.

Outdoor lighting by lanterns is my favourite. Kadai’s Arabian lanterns are 50cm high and fabulous. Fairy lights or rope lights hung on a string are inexpensive and great to play around with: over pergolas, on buildings and archways they can be used to highlight and add atmosphere.

All that remains is food. Many of the NGS gardens are famous for their fabulous cakes and teas – I am afraid I ran out of time, having spent too long in the garden and not long enough in the kitchen. But a friend who works for Fiona Cairns came to the rescue and turned up with the best spread of beautiful and delicious cakes I have ever seen. Our table has never heaved so much before. You can see the spread on my YouTube video Garden Party Time.

Mundane maintenance 

Many gardeners have found this year’s growth overwhelming, no doubt caused by the exceptionally early growing season and the intermittent deluges. Mowing and hedge-cutting are often the big issues. Robotic mowers, meadows, sheep and flails for hedges have helped me massively this year!

Watch Bunny’s latest YouTube videos:

How to Party in the Garden All Year Round

How I kill Perennial Weeds – Forever

Time-Saving Gardening Hacks

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Garden Help Desk: Learn to pick summer squash in its prime | Community News

Question: My garden doesn’t look the way I want it to look, especially my summer squash. I pick the squash every weekend, but most of them are tough and bumpy, like warty. How can I fix this for next year?

Answer: This is something you can fix right now, this year. Start picking your squash more frequently.

Summer squash fruits mature very quickly. A squash that isn‘t quite ready for harvest on the day you’re out picking can reach “old age” by the time you are back in the garden harvesting again a week later.

Summer squash that is past its prime will be large and have a tough or warty skin. The color may look either bleached or darker than usual.

Try going out into the garden two or three times a week. Pick crookneck and straight neck yellow summer squash when they’re about 6-to-9-inches long and zucchini varieties at about 8-to-12-inches long, depending on the variety.

Don’t let your squash reach the size that strikes fear in the hearts of your neighbors. Pick them while they’re younger and you’ll never have trouble keeping up with the volume.

The squash will be more tender, flavorful and nutritious; if you do end up with more than you can use, your neighbors will be glad to see you instead of hiding from you. More frequent picking also will help to prolong the harvest from your plants.

Depending on the variety, crookneck and straight neck yellow squash is ready to pick when the color is a warm yellow without green undertones, and the blossom has dried. The blossom might or might not drop off the squash. Pick zucchini as soon as it reaches the ideal size for you.

Check out today’s photos for examples of squash at their best.

Question: I live in central Utah County. Is it OK to turn off my sprinklers for the season now?

Answer: It’s a little too early to stop watering. That little cold spell this week probably surprised more than a few gardeners, but we’re not done with summer just yet.

We still have plenty of warm-to-hot weather ahead. Trees and shrubs will still need a deep soak every 7-10 days. Flower beds and vegetable gardens will still need to be watered, too.

What you can do now is begin to increase the interval between waterings but continue to water deeply each time. If you’ve been watering twice a week, about once every three days, now is the time to increase the interval to once every four days for a couple of weeks, then once every five days, and so on, until you’re watering your lawn about once every seven to 10 days when it’s time to shut off your sprinkler system sometime in October.

Depending on the weather, broadleaf and needleleaf evergreen trees and shrubs will need a deep soak at least once after you’ve shut off your sprinkler system in the fall. This helps the plants and soil go into the winter

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